Friday, December 9, 2016

What does the Future Hold?

The future. It fills many with apprehension today. Since we do not know what it holds, we often fill in the gaps with what we believe about the world. Our experiences and past can emotionally shape how we handle what may lie ahead.

In my case, I become very apprehensive if I feel I have no control over events in my life. I consider the future with anxiety, wondering if my goals will fail or what mountains of inner turmoil I must climb if they succeed. The more unsure I am, the more this feeling increases. Since I seek comfort in a sense of mastering the details of my life, I am finding God only lets me see the steps before my feet, as if I have a flashlight in a dark room lighting only what is directly before me. The lesson here is to trust Him and not myself.

We can not know what the future holds. What we can be assured of is the character of God. As Christians, our welfare is safe in His hands. He is utterly trustworthy. That does not mean our lives will be perfect and without trials. It is God’s purpose not to shield us from trouble, but to use it to shape our relationship with Him. He will empower us in our weakness, fill us with His peace, and be our steadfast joy. We step out on our journey holding this in our hearts, confident not in ourselves, but in an awesome God. Our lives become an epic pilgrimage in the joy of the love of Christ shining rays of grace throughout our days.

© Jeffrey M Green. Artwork: “Shadows on the Moss”, pastels.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Art & Science, One Artist's View

Imagine you are an artist. An empty canvass on an easel is before you. You sit for a while, waiting for a beautiful painting to appear. Maybe if you wait long enough or set it in a corner of your studio for a very long time, somehow something will emerge?

I have been an artist most of my life. I know that if I lay a blank sheet of art board on my desk and place beside it a selection of colored pencils (the medium I use) no matter how long I leave them sitting there, an art piece will not spring into existence of its own accord. I could wait years as the materials of my craft lay, as dust settles and it ages, while still nothing emerges. Not until an outside agent acts will a work materialize. Nothing will take place until a hand sets pencil or medium to paper and creates a piece of art. This is not a bizarre, fantastical accident of chance happenstance or creeping evolutionary changes of medium and paper mixture. A willful hand guided by creativity, cognitive intelligence, and action purposely creates. This does not even address how the materials themselves where made the same way.

As I contemplate the surrounding world, I see an immense amount of detail. Considering just a few, such as DNA, cells, atoms, the elements, the intricacy of plant, animal, and marine life, they leave one to question how such a marvelous masterpiece could have sprung from nothing. We are so used to life, accustomed to the earth so to speak, that it has lost its wonder. Modern technology has sanitized us, reducing an amazement of our planet and the appreciation that we exist. These things no longer have wonderment for us because we define existence as self-central to our own capacity and authority. 

When you look closely at a photo in newspaper print, the picture is composed of tiny dots. This is called halftone. Mankind is ever analyzing tiny dots in life. Though God has given us an open curiosity, this has become a cynical negativity that feeds a self-serving world view where we see nothing but dots and redefine them for ourselves. We refuse to step back and take an objective view. The charge of lack of objectivity is made toward those who believe, yet like much of skeptical thought, it falls back on itself. This is tragic, for as we redefine the nature of the things we myopically analyze, a deceptive picture instead emerges.

If one were to consider a belief in a Creator, it is not a big step to assume that if a Creator took willful intent to fashion unique living, thinking beings, would this Creator not also care about what has been made? Do we not treat our own children so? We care what they do, how they live, and the ramifications of the decisions they make. Why is it we do? Because we love our children. We know what they do can be harmful to them. We adore them, care for them, long for their good.

In my opinion, I find the prevalent acceptable scientific view to be the opposite of knowledge. It is close-minded to me, while claiming this for those who believe otherwise. When viewed in a fair-minded way, removing all the years of indoctrination, it is rather silly really. Behind all the imposing scientific rhetoric, built on fortresses of conjecture, is allot of myth and fantasy. There we find the desire to be ones own god and do what is right in ones own eyes. 

If we have lost our wonder today, this is where artists have a calling. I find it a joy that artists have a special heartfelt connection to Creation. We observe and examine the visual world, feebly copying on paper or canvas the vibrant, living, life we see. That is what early scientists did. They studied Creation and gave God the glory for it in admiration and awe of what He has wrought.

What a wonderful role artist's are blessed with. The very ability we have - as well as the hands, eyes, and mind - are formed by our Creator. We receive this gift, giving and expressing this back to the very One who gave. 


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. “Gentle”, colored pencils.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Message from the Artist

It is an understatement that the Christmas season can be a time of stress. There is a host of reasons for this. We feel obligated to attend as many events as we can. We may have guilt driving us to give to a long a list of those we owe gifts or favors to. Often guilt or obligation come into play. The true ordeal, however, is the relentless pursuit of stuff. Afflicted with long lines, mad dashes, and traffic, we try to get as much as our wallets or overextended credit will allow. Driven to bury our loved ones under objects, gadgets, and trinkets, or things we want ourselves, it overtakes our energy and thoughts.

This is a stark picture for a Holiday that calls us to focus on meaning. With issues of loneliness, loss, and trials with finances, we become even more burdened.

I invite you this year to devote yourself, with active intent, to the true meaning of Christmas. Together, let us center instead on the awesome gift of God’s Son to us, His love for us, and give ourselves in love to our friends and family. This does not mean adding Christ onto the mayhem, cramming substance in somewhere to make a moment that is nice. Instead, we seek our God, allowing Him to bless each day until Christmas by filling us with His blessed Son.

Our Spirit-filled reaction to this focus is to offer ourselves outwardly, in love. Giving our prayers, our smiles, our presence, and our time. There is no perfect present that can bestow our child, loved one, or be received by us to create a perfect Christmas. We have substituted the profound with material objects. This Christmas Holiday spirit is what I resolve to seek this year. It starts right at home. This is the example for my wife and I, starting early to enjoy it even more.

God grant you His peace in His beautiful, wonderful Son. Jesus, a baby humbly laying in a food trough - incarnate God - a man who walked among us and sacrificed His pure life for our sins. Praise His name forever. This greatest of gifts alters a lifetime, fills us with joy, and grants us an eternity with God.

Jeffrey M Green



Friday, November 18, 2016

Social Media

Social media has become a place where there is little filter. Without face to face contact, interactions become volatile. We often say things with strong words and hold opinions that are written with a fist. Just like every other area of life such as school, work, and our communities, it is always the other guy we esteem as wrong. Epithets are thrown around like rocks.

It is so easy to have an armchair denunciation of anyone we disagree with. We have much to learn about how to relate to one another.

As Christians we are called to humble ourselves before God, to search our own hearts. It is there where we see the darkest part of ourselves that desperately need the gracious love of God. How blessed it is that this love is freely offered, redeems us entirely, and brings joy to our every day life. No matter whom we may be – the average Joe, stellar citizen, or unwanted outcast – the grace of Christ is offered to change us forever. In a dark world, there is light.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.

Artwork: "Garden Butterfly", © Jeffrey M Green.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Never Leave You

When I was a child, my father left my mom and abandoned his children, disappearing from our lives as if he no longer existed. My mom scraped by as a single mother, living with the pressure of never knowing if we would make it.

At an impressionable age, my father abandoning us sent a deep and painful message. His deliberate, permanent absence taught me “I am worthless”. Soon, my own peers treated me in a way that reinforced this message. A shy, timid, and sensitive child, I let anyone treat me in whatever way they wished, thinking I was worth nothing more. What began as a single event shaped future events in the way it had changed me.

The reality of endings and loss has had a continuing impact in my life. In them I continue to experience an empty sadness I cannot escape. An unwanted cloud descends. A sense that  good will come to an end, losing hold of them as the wind carries them away.

Loss, trials, and pain are common to each of us. They are a given in a broken world.  When Jesus stepped into my life and brought healing, I discovered something new and different than what the world taught me. God, who is a Father to the fatherless and a friend to the friendless, brought beautiful mercy. In the lonely, dark valleys of the mental and emotional illness that marked my later life, His intimate love never left me. How grateful I am for such love.

While people in our lives may fail us, we can fully trust God because He is trustworthy. He is faithful and will never forsake or hurt us. As God is absolute in power, we have security nothing can compare to as we cling to Him. Our lives are in his utmost care. Resting in the Father, the pure water of completeness and joy fills our hearts and minds. Each day is new to experience how much God loves us in Christ Jesus.

In our experiences and emotions, the world can be a dangerous place, shaping our lives in the ways our reactions cope with them. Though the road may have been dark, light dawns at the foot of the cross. Sun pierces black clouds in the rays of Christ’s wonder and grace. His promises hold us close, forever.

Artwork and design: © Jeffrey M Green.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Peace of God

The peace of God is one of the most important truths I seek daily. For most of my life I have lived with mental or emotional problems that cause a great deal of inner turmoil. This is not only the opposite of peace; it creates unrest in me with how I tend to handle life in all its stress, pressure, and myriad conflicts.

I wish to be free to enjoy God, to live in the joy of knowing Him, and to handle challenges in a healthy way. How wonderful God’s graciousness is in Christ. His merciful love is pure in healing in the deepest parts of our being, empowering our weakness, and ever caring for us no matter how often we stumble.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Bushkill Creek Reflections", 16 x 20", colored pencils.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trust


When I face difficult circumstances, I have a choice to make. I look at the facts as they appear, on the one hand, and on the other the awesome character of God revealed in Scripture. Comparing the two, my trial is no match for the love, mercy, and enabling strength of God in Christ. The “facts as they appear” is an important distinction here. Often our perception of reality is distorted by stress, fear, and dread. There will be times when our circumstances are truly dire, yet God is bigger than anything we encounter.

By feeding our hearts and minds on Scripture, we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit. We learn that God is our loving conqueror. Though we so often stumble, we have a patient and gracious Father whose love radiates our lives with joy. To fully trust God is to lay aside our own striving as wasted and exhausting effort. Instead, we completely put ourselves in the hands of our Father.

We cannot live in His strength by merely owning a Bible. We must read it regularly. Contrary to what is assumed, faith is not blind or passive. It engages us at the deepest levels. Scripture describes neglecting the truths of Christ as living on milk and staying an infant. We are ill prepared for our own emotional struggles or what the world throws at us if we are immature in understanding. Thankfully, this can be remedied for any believer. By partaking of the solid food of the Word, we grow and are transformed.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Lighthouse Reflections", 9 x 12", colored pencils.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Called to Love


Love, the gospel way, is not easy. Though it is often counter intuitive to our desires, it is liberating. We love because He first wonderfully loved us. We stumble, we fall, and yet sill He continues to love us. If our Lord so treats His children, with His enabling mercy may we reflect the spirit of this in a gracious manner toward others.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Misunderstanding God in our Struggles

If you listen to the comments of those who are struggling with their feelings about God, many times is found a mistaken notion that God behaves as we do. The hurt inflicted by a fickle world can morph into defining truth for us. This may be especially true in issues with parents. They play such an important role in shaping our hearts and minds it can leave deep scars if we have been hurt by them.

In my past, I struggled with seeing God as aloof and uncaring. I felt that if He cared at all it was only to use it against me to hate and crush me. If we look at this objectively, it is obviously opposite God’s character. I had no set formula of beliefs here; it was a reaction from deep within shaped by painful experiences. I had unfortunately learned it from how my father treated me. This emotional damage created pain for me, not only in the way I defined life, but in how I perceived God. I found myself struggling with relating in a healthy way.

The glorious reality is that God is nothing like us. His love is pure, His motives are for our care, and He is awesome in perfection. He is not only Holy; He went to amazing lengths to show us how much He loves us. Jesus is the utmost of God Himself, His gracious love gift for us. As we let go of what we have known and receive Him as children, we allow God to correct the lies we believe. The more we learn of His character in Scripture, we are healed deep within, and come to know the full joy of a life set wonderfully free.

By blaming God for our problems, or allowing our view of Him to be shaped by our past, we cut off the true hope we need at the source. The human heart cannot rest without the restoring love of the God who created us. Peace and redemptive joy are possible at the foot of the Cross.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts". Isaiah 55:8-9.

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, His works are perfect,
    and all His ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4


Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Shadows on the Moss", 8 x 10", pastels.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Art & Reducing Stress


It is a given that life is full of stress. In is expected in our hectic lives. More than any other time, people struggle with anxieties. Though we know emotional turmoil is harmful to our well being, it can be a kind of norm. Stress can become an ever-present undercurrent, at times intensifying and becoming unbearable, robbing us of physical or mental energy.

Moments of relief do not happen by accident, we need to make a choice to pause. Rest will never come if unworthy of our time. By stepping back for a well-needed break, we have more control over the pace of our lives.  In a culture driven by a can-do, or perhaps a must-do attitude, it is helpful to come to grips with why we are so driven. Rather than inviting disaster in wasted time, with moments of calm reflection we rejuvenate ourselves with meaning. Life without meaning can be one of the most hopeless experiences.

We are bombarded by images of every kind with TV and the internet. Craving information and activity, our minds have become overloaded with intense input. If we have leisure time, it has become an obsession in which we try to cram as much as we can. In an ironic sense, relaxation has become work. Whether at work or rest, the abundance of activity in all we do avoids quiet and deeper reflection.

In contrast, art gives moments of peace as we pause to contemplate. Art edifies the mind, requiring our attention to enjoy. This is best experienced in person, rather than flying by in seconds on social media. The work I create has a sense of calm. There is an expression of peace and tranquility, focusing our attention on things around us in Creation. As the mind appreciates creativity, we enjoy this gift God has given us in its varied expression.

Allowing time for ourselves might seem selfish or lazy. Yet, our lives touch others. A parent, spouse, teacher, or preacher at peace in their hearts, spreads this smile to those around them. Stress is very harmful to our mental and emotional health, and can be to others when we take it out on them.

There is a peace that surpasses all the world has to offer. It is free, given in wonderful in mercy. The storms of a hundred anxieties I find calmed by the pages of His love letter to us, the Bible. God, who is awesome with unapproachable power and holiness, is near in grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Here too something is required of us. If we pass it by, we miss true life. We bring our full attention to God, emptying our hands of ourselves to receive and come to Him. Profound meaning, joy, and purpose, are fulfilled in His love for us.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Sunset Over Barnegat Bay", 15 x 22", colored pencils.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How I Work/ Does Art Just Come to Me?

I have been asked if the artwork I create "just comes to me". Art may sometimes be received with an impact of wonder to the viewer. Given this, there can be an assumption of the piece having flowed out of an artist's talented powers. My artwork, or any ability, is not driven by the vague or mystical. While I may be inspired at any stage from planning to creation, or be moved to do a certain theme, the bottom line is it takes work to create art. As I do, I use the creative energy of a natural talent. Throughout the process, however, applied work and time is required, like any other endeavor anyone may pursue. One may do the same with music, numbers, or building materials. Each of our vocations requires honing our skills. They do not come overnight. Art may appear mysterious - how did he do that? In reality, it requires effort throughout my entire life and in every piece.

Does artwork come easy? Creativity may stem from a natural ability, yet each art piece has its own challenges. As I work my foremost goal is to capture the subject using all my skill, and to stretch, pull, and learn more each time I create. This is the part that interests me and drives me the most. At times, this aspect may not be easy. The challenge is to keep the desire to do my utmost, even when it may be hard to do.  Those moments will come, they are a given. I make plenty of mistakes, working through them.

We find a prevalent idea with non-artists and some artists concerning the need to "feel it" or be moved and inspired or we can not work. If there are artists who work this way, I suspect they would find the ability within themselves if they are not limited to that idea.  This is not the case for me. I can create art anytime. I work everyday. Any obstacle within me, or in the work, is something to be adjusted to. To wait for inspiration, or when I feel right will only keep me from working. To keep doing art, moving from one piece to the next, is natural for me. Oftentimes inspiration comes when I simply sit to work on it, as I go. I find inspiration for my next pieces with subjects I want to portray, or by an idea behind them I wish to explore. Each week I will go through tough times, tedious periods, and moments when I need to set the piece aside for the next day.

Being an artist is enjoyable. The satisfaction of a completed work and the creativity needed for it are great motivations. I find that if I have spent an extended period away from the art table, my mood is affected. Productivity gives us a sense of propose, to remove this can lead to negative emotions.

A special joy is found in God giving us the ability to be creative. A wonderful gift He gives us, pointing right back to Him as all Creation is His awesome handiwork. How wonderful that He creates each of us with different talents. Our Creator gives each one talent unique to each. For the artist, it encompasses the eyes, the hands, and the mind He fashioned. We paint or draw, showcasing and highlighting what He has already created in vibrant living life. Artists are as if students studying what He has wrought Himself - yet mere children of dust who can only appreciate with awe His own glorious handiwork. It is wonderful how God calls us to grow and shine, yet creates in us the ability to do so Himself. With God, He gives a gift to us first and we merely give back to Him what He gave us and fashioned within us.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Halved", 16 x 20", colored pencils.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Beauty of God


When we contemplate the many attributes of God, we see a God of awesome and powerful beauty. In each characteristic - such as holiness, righteousness, purity, mercy, love, forgiveness, patience, and omnipotent power - we see perfection. As we look to Him with reverence, from the vantage point of the cross of Christ, we see a God of multifaceted grandeur.

That such a magnificent God is near and ever present to us in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ almost sounds too good to be true. Yet it is wonderfully and exultingly true. Through every trial, or mundane circumstance of life, He is near with astounding grace.

Praise God for His incomparable beauty and the radiance of His Son in glory. In all the the fullness of God, our Lord Jesus is at His right hand.

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Minsi Lake", pastels & "Sunset Over Barnegat Bay", colored pencils.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Artists Focus on God through the Showcase of Creation

As an artist, many times I reflect with the deepest devotion on the beauty of God. We do not often think of the word beautiful in relation to God. It is glory of the highest glory, utter sublimity, awesome beyond our finite minds. The appreciation of God as beautiful calls to mind all His glorious attributes, with an awe of joy.

How gracious it is of our Creator that mere man can enjoy creativity. A gift from the Hand that created our very beings and the capacity to express ourselves. Though we see mere shadows and reflections of His wonder in the world around us, they are revealed as His handiwork and point back to Him.

God’s beauty, a radiance of glory, is the delight of my heart’s desire. It is not a beauty of the trivial, however, or our own often worldly idea of merely nice or charming. God is awesome above all things. He is absolute in power, vastly beyond us, in glory, holiness, and character. Yet, this same God is personal, intimately near in the most healing love, in the Person of His Son. Jesus, the wonderful gift of joy that sets us free.

The world, life within us and around us, was fashioned by the hand of a glorious Creator. An artist does not sit before an empty canvass and watch as it somehow forms a wonderful work of its own making in an accident of time (however long is needed for it to somehow emerge itself from nothing from a medium somehow existing the same way). Here we see art fostering appreciation in existence as a cause from a personal God.

Artists have a unique role in highlighting the experiences and showcase of Creation. It is not something we do in our own nobility. Does God really need anything from man? No, it is a gift. The very ability - the eyes, the perception, the hands, the mind, life itself - is all a gift. With feeble imperfect hands of mortality and dust that merely admire vibrant living life He has wrought, we use our perception and creativity.

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead. Romans 1:20.

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Psalm 104:1.



Artwork: "Garden Butterfly", © Jeffrey M Green.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Self-Definition

Each of us have roles in life. There are many labels we use to describe these. In them, we find a sense of purpose. When we ask the question, "Who am I?", we focus on these aspects in order to understand ourselves. Yet, do they really define self? What exactly does?

As I view my life, I see a number of things. I am an artist. As such, I have a role in the local community and society. I have been blessed with many supporters and friends with my art endeavors. My purpose as an artist is an important part of me.

I have been a husband for almost five years. I have a role in marriage, having been blessed with a unique woman who loves me more than I deserve. Being a husband is an important part of me.

I am a member of a local church. I am blessed to have friends there that I value very much. They have been a support for my parents and welcomed me as well. Being involved in the church community is an important part of me.
I am the son of caring parents, for much of my life they have been a support in the midst of challenges I had that were not easy for them. Their imprint will be part of me for the rest of my life. My role as a son, and in the wider sense of my family, is an important part of me.

All of these make up parts of me. Yet, considered individually, or combined together, they do not ultimately define me as a person. What defines me, that which determines my identity, that which designates who I am – is grounded in the fact that I am loved by a Holy God. I am loved in an undeserved grace, received as His own in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. It binds all of these parts together, is head of all of them, and establishes their value. This truth is so profound as to encompass and define life, with all the roles or purposes in relation to it.

This does not equate to the label "very religious person”, though it may seem to. Most of the things that I shared concern relationship. I am bound to the person of Jesus Christ wholly, in relationship with the most beautiful love anyone can ever know. It is a life of ever receiving. Daily His love shines in my experiences, making all good things beautiful, working beauty and grace from pain. My soul rests, it finds completion in He who not only made me, but redeemed me. When I come to know that I was created by a personal God, am saved by His grace to draw near to Him, I find the fruition and reason for my very being. I find why I am really me, what I exist for.

God’s love in Christ is what defines me. In this, it does not negate the rest, rather, it imbues them with even more meaning they could have alone. This purpose infuses all of life. Christ is the “Amen” to all truth, to all love, to all the events I experience. He is on the throne of every life’s breath, yet intimately as a friend who never leaves or forsakes. Such joy is wonderful and beautiful, permeating life with the sublime love Christ has for us.

Artwork: "Awaken", © Jeffrey M Green. We see in this work a sense of determination, of purpose. The realization of which is that of bringing about the awareness of an awakening from things that have gone before.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Desire to Avoid Discomfort

As Americans, perhaps more than any other culture, we tend to resist any form of discomfort. Whether it is physical, financial, emotional, or situational, we cry out against difficulty. We are brought up on our rights, what we can demand, and what we see as a sacred promise of the pursuit of individual happiness. In some ways today, these noble ideas have transformed in our psyche as a desire to shield ourselves from any trouble at all in life. You might even say we largely have redefined them solely to serve our own comfort.

When it comes to real life, it is unavoidable that there will be some kind of trouble. There will be difficult, even painful experiences. We may encounter this almost every day in some manner, or go through periods where we are overwhelmed. Our pasts may be filled with events that left many scars inside of us.

Some seek comfort desperately - or at least the lack of discomfort - by self medicating with drugs, alcohol, prescription abuse, or a myriad of diversions and entertainments. Modern life has uniquely brought many challenges of stress, along with ways of promising to alleviate it, though ultimately they add to the problem. The pull of them, nevertheless, is very strong.

Not everyone reacts this way. Perhaps the most universal reaction in the desire to avoid discomfort is complaining. Grousing has almost become a right in and of itself in our society, while on an individual level it defines much of our conversation. We complain about our bills, our health, our bad breaks, our marriages, how people treat us. The airwaves and media are filled with complaints about our government. We respond with visceral emotion, as if entitled to an intrinsic right to be free of any challenges. If things are not this way, we feel something is very wrong.

In terms of societal interaction, when we see all discomfort defined as a wrong itself, blame becomes a ready weapon, enmity the energy of social discourse. With punishment and apologies demanded, we are appeased, so we can feel safe and comfortable again. Is our over-vigilant sensitivity to tolerance issues, political correctness, or our raging against any contrary opinion other than our own (whatever they may be for either side) really a desire to never be uncomfortable?

When we allow our experiences to be in the hands of God, rather than our own, we are free to address life’s situations in a much healthier manner. In Christ, trials and difficulty are the chief way that God enables us to grow. In and through them God brings beauty and transformation, for our good. In this way difficulty transcends our annoyance, our resistance, and bitter complaining. Instead, it becomes opportunity. Our focus then is not on ease, but on Him.

There really is no way to avoid all discomfort or difficulty. We do not need to allow these experiences to go to waste, using up precious mental and emotional energy. By offering it to our Father, in trust that He has our best in mind at all times, we are free to receive the joy of His love in the midst of painful trials. It is a sure promise to hold onto, even when things get tough. It is then that abundant blessings await us.

Artwork: "Jetty", © Jeffrey M Green.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Welcoming God

Since the beginning, mankind has been running from God. Though we are empty and deeply broken, we seek our own way. If we may be inclined to think of God, we do so on our own terms, as if He were to answer to us, or ought to. If it does not happen this way, we are quick to get angry, in our generation.

The wonderful truth is that God is actually pursuing us. He actively seeks us, for He loves us beyond measure. So much so, that He gave His very own Son. Christ suffered, died, and rose again to bridge the gap of enmity between God and mankind. What is even more wonderful is that this is not an impersonal act vaguely applied to us. It is for each of us individually. God values each one of us, where we are right now, in our circumstances. Are your trials too big or too bad for God to love you? This is far from the case. It can be the very thing that brings you to an end of yourself, to welcome a God who waits for you to receive His Son.

Scripture says that when someone repents (changes their mind, receives Christ) all the angels in Heaven rejoice. Because it is the most beautiful thing a person can experience, with ramifications now and for all eternity. A sure hope that is not fickle emotion, but utterly trustworthy because of the object it is in, God Himself.

Artwork: "Through the Trees", © Jeffrey M Green.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil has been debated and explored for thousands of years. Up until our modern time, it was a given for us that evil existed. What we are seeing in modern society now, especially in the West, is a denial or redefining of evil and morality. It is a major shift in thinking.

There is, however, one sense where we very much are absorbed with the issue of evil more than ever before. It seems strange that on the one hand we want to remove this truth, but on the other we have become almost obsessed with it. It really comes down to where our focus and motives are. In our day, evil is most always considered in terms of “the other”. We see evil in that other person, that other group, that other society, that other mindset or views. We get caught up in this, and as we do so, we assume in ourselves that we are among the few that are “good”. Today's extreme behavior of the tolerance movement is very much driven by this energy, yet, no one is really immune. It is, after all, a human heart matter. When battle lines are drawn against each other, we see it in all camps.

God does not have the limited or reduced view of good that we do. Ours is based on a sliding scale of our own human perception, with others as a comparison – such as, “at least I (or we) are not as bad as they”. Today we are quick to use the words “do not judge me”, championing personal freedom as an all-encompassing banner, yet are constantly preoccupied with “the other” and what they deserve.

The Bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. This is the human condition universally. It is very hard for us to see evil in ourselves, however. It is uncomfortable to do, certainly.  We run away from this idea or strive to live up to a code or philosophy of some kind in order to somehow try to counteract it, feeling that, if the good somehow outweighs the bad, we will be OK. We have an idea that we are really not so bad, failing to understand what true good is. True good is in relation to the source of good, which is God. True good is not relative, it is pure. When we are truthful with ourselves and look within as we stand before a Holy God, we are confronted with the fact that denial or redefining moral reality only adds to our sad state.

Deep within, we know – though we push it away, distract ourselves, or deny with all our energy - that we do wrong, we are imperfect, we hurt others, disappoint our own selves, and fall so short of good. Thankfully, though the judge’s gavel has been brought down, the sentence does not have to be despair. We can find joy, release, and true freedom.

As we are confronted with our own evil - the Bible calls this sin -  we are invited to fall to our knees and receive the Christ who, in the purest unfathomable love, paid for it in full on the cross. He rose in victory over sin and death, bringing us true life. Great is the love God has for us, that though we are sinners, He gave His only Son.

When we receive Christ, we are washed clean. Where there was once enmity and separation from a Holy God, we find through Jesus, tender mercy and connection. Where there was hopelessness and darkness, we find rejoicing in the beautiful unmerited grace of God. God, who at the same time as being utterly and awesomely Holy, receives us with open arms in the gift of His Son.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. Altered colored pencils self portrait.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When Depression is Our Companion

When we struggle with depression, isolation can make us feel hopeless. Most in our social circle may mean well, yet do not have the wish or ability to get close and connect on a deeper level. Though surrounded by people we can experience a profound aloneness.

There are valleys we walk that are so deep we wonder who will pause, listen to our pain, and understand? I am thankful that we can be open in our deepest sorrows with our loving Father. He will not turn away, dismiss us with light sentiments, or act awkward. In Christ, He knows us intimately. He knows us to our core. He demonstrated such love on the cross for us, with wonderful grace.

The darkness of depression can bring a numbing separation from anything positive. Hope then seems beyond the control of our immediate moment. We long for understanding yet withdraw into ourselves. Reading the Psalms as an example, we find that God welcomes His children pouring out our deepest pain to Him. There is none of this we need to hide. We are safe to bare all the despair within. We are free to be vulnerable with a Lord who tells us He will never leave us or forsake us, who reminds us how deeply we are loved. As there is no isolation more devastating than separation from God, if we have never accepted His Son we must receive this wonderful gift.

Sometimes our hearts are so weighed down we can not reach out and appreciate God's love in the emotional moment. Depression is like a sickness which may not pass easily with the best medicine. We can lay this turmoil before Him, knowing He walks us through our days with our hand clasped in His own. In the redemption of Christ, His hand is held strong over ours, where we can not wander, as it could be if the hands were reversed. His grace is not only over us when we can see it clearly, this is just as true in the heart's dry branches, thorns, and thistles. Our wonderful God is good, all the time. His tender, gentle love enfolds with the healing light of pure acceptance in Christ.

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit...but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:15. 

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Cloudy Dawn", pastels on pastel paper, 8 1/2" x 11".

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Surrounded On All Sides By Love


Are you disappointed with yourself today? Do you feel down? In Christ the barrier of enmity is wiped away, bringing us near to God. Being near, His relationship to us is that of surrounding us on all sides in love. Not convenient fuzzy love only when we do well, but a deep pure love that can never be removed, even  when we fall on our face or just can't seem to overcome.

Your yesterday does not define your tomorrow. His grace is new everyday, bringing beauty and restoration in the most broken lives. And we are really all broken aren't we?

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (that is us), so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Wings", 3" x 4 1/4", colored pencils.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Different Kind of Bio for a Different Kind of Life

My art is naturally affected by the whole of who I am as a person, both my past experiences and the present. In an increasing measure, at many places I go today, my unusual life has become a focus of interest. I share this aspect in hopes that it will touch others, with the realization there are many people today who struggle with issues that may not be seen on the surface. Lifelong trials do not have to be the end of our story. Mental and emotional issues can leave scars of shame for those who suffer with them. Our families or peers may sometimes not understand, though clinically there is more information today than ever.

______________________

My life is very different today. This is all still so new and very recent to me, when taken in comparison with the years of turmoil beforehand. I am 51 years old now. I am married, part of the art and church community, with a measure of success in my art career still in its beginning stages. I have had three solo shows, been part of many group shows, been featured in three magazines, and spoken in public a fair amount of times. I also teach in my home town and belong to a few local art societies in the area.

Until the past few years, however, I lived a very withdrawn life in a deep struggle with social anxiety. I was literally a shut in for much of my life, where art became my own little world. It affected my adolescent years severely. I attended a school for troubled kids when I was a teenager, it was the only way I could graduate with the problems I had. They were very difficult years that left scars of their own by peers who took advantage of my anxiety, in the way they treated me.

By my late teens and into my 20’s I became increasingly more and more troubled, until I basically became a shut in. I was terrified of people and social situations. As I spiraled downward, depression and a severe form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder took over my life. My daily experience became a very dark place. I was shut away from the world quite literally, while my own world was full of pain.

During this time I spent much of it creating and exploring with my art. Though my struggles affected my art as well, overall it was one positive thing to come out through it all, during those very long years.

For most all of my life, up to recent memory, any concept to me of “getting better” was something I could not comprehend. It was just not in the picture at all. It had that much of a control of my life; it was that much a part of me. For the OCD alone, this was very true. I was on several different medicines and combinations of them, one experimental at that time, to try to address the disorder. Doctors eventually gave up on being able to help me with that and the anxiety, including one I had seen for over ten years.

This presents a very bleak picture, and it was. The part that makes it hopeful now is the key word, “was”. That too is complicated, to be sure. Anxiety is not something that dies easily; I still struggle with it immensely today. Through that which may be seen on the outside in accomplishments, this is what is not seen. Yet, now the struggle is a direct reaction to actually interacting socially in a positive way, or achieving or reaching for goals, for positive growth in a forward direction. While this does provoke my anxiety problems, I now grow through it. At times it is very hard and causes a valley I must walk through to get to the other side of it.

In order to address such a life long struggle, for me, I first had to be broken completely. Far beyond rock bottom – I was there many times already. My unhealthy mind needed to be broken, my entire view of life, myself, everything. Being broken sounds scary, it was indeed, yet my unhealthy mind and heart had such a tenacious hold. This was not what can be described with a word, or with twelve steps to be taken, so to speak. My faith as a Christian was paramount as I addressed every unhealthy belief, attitude, and mental lie that shaped my whole painful world. When I mention faith, I do not mean a force or energy that was used in my own effort, as to me faith is really only as good as what object it is in.

In terms of my art and life becoming productive, getting “out there” in the world was a huge step for me. That I was even able to contemplate doing so took a lifetime in realization. It is s huge step that has progressive ongoing mountains to climb, as I go. I began this only four years or so ago. Along the way, speaking in public, and especially teaching were the hardest trials of all to overcome. At first I struggled as I tried to interact socially. I was awkward and very quiet. Over time I have developed the ability to be able to do so much better. With each challenge I still go through a great deal of turmoil. Again, it is in the newness of addressing it directly and growing. In fact, I find it is one of the key things that cause me to cling to God, a beautiful experience to me in the midst of all the trials.

At one time I was ashamed of being different and hid this secret part of my life from others. Transformed blessings have created in me now an appreciation of God’s healing; seeing my art, myself, and my life, in a whole new light. I am no longer ashamed of who I am, at peace with that fact that it is Ok to be different, that God's love is so deeply special to people with struggles. The shame was a deep damaging wound for me during those dark years. Being a grown man and a shut in tore at my own self worth. As it seems I never did anything half way, it became a seething self hatred.

It was a long road - these trials encompassed most of my life - but to me it is that much more deep and meaningful that the grace of God can reach anyone, in any circumstance, no matter how dark. I would never ask to walk it again, to be sure. Some of it, like the struggle with OCD, which ate away and destroyed so many years in pain I can not even describe, is a cause for regret to me. My struggles were not without effect on my family or those around me. I withdrew from them as well, which was a source of pain to my mom. Not to mention a trial of her own, and my step dad, in trying to get me help or live with me. My behavior, in many ways, was incomprehensible to others.

With all this, today I enjoy a virtually new life with all the positive things I shared at the beginning. Simple things that many enjoy over the course of a life – such as having friends, marriage, having a role of some kind in society - to me are all so new, to be experienced in light of all that has come before. Each challenge is also new to me. It requires a great deal of struggle, for things others may handle so much more confidently. I know that God can do anything, can remake anything, and make something good out of the longest and most trying trials. I live in that hope each day.

Through it all, despite it all, in much of my art can be seen a sense of tranquility, of peace. Its realization in my life is a new gift to me and something I actively seek each day. To be at peace with God, with myself, and with the world. To allow peace to come to me, even as I am full of anxiety.

I have met and known many wonderful people in this new phase of my life. Rather than hiding away alone, I enjoy talking to people now. I no longer wish to hide away. I have many goals I seek in my art, for the future. There is so much I want to do with the time I have. Along the way, I have benefited from the help, support, and encouragement of many indeed. It has been a great joy.

Art has been a wonderful blessing to me in my life. As each door opens it is an exciting and challenging adventure. It is one I walk through with a God who is not the God of the almost, the maybe, or the nearly. Even after a lifetime of trial.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Yearning for More Than Conditional Acceptance

Have you ever thought about how many interpersonal relationships are conditional? Most likely you have felt its weight, we all have at some time or another. Most relationships are, to greater or lesser degrees. Whether friends, family, society, church, spouses, school, or social groups - all have lists of requirements in order for us to be acceptable.
Our interactions in life are based on performance wherever we go. If someone does not meet our needs, our emotional demands, if they make mistakes, we do not accept them. We write them off in our minds or reject them. How many churches are reduced to enmity, how many groups at each others throats? How many schoolyards and workplaces are full of animosity? You must meet the criteria, is the message we receive.
Oftentimes, it is the more subtle forms that hurt us the most. The looks, the gossip, the snubs. The remarks directed at us under the breath, or just within earshot for us to hear. Rejection is a very powerful force that sends the message that you are not OK.
God’s love breaks though the superficial and meets our tremendous need to be loved. We do not have to play games to be accepted by God. We do not have to go through life struggling with self hatred, or shame for the very personalities that make us different. Before Him we are bare to the core. He sees and knows all. He knows our secret faults, knows our secret pain.
We talk a great deal about love. From songs to gurus it is a theme. Most of the time this is superficial sentimentality, a vague fuzzy emotion, that is highly conditional. It is easy to "feel nice about" those we find acceptable. Who will love us in the dark, when we are alone? When we hate ourselves, when we are rejected? Who will love us when we fall flat on our face and fail? Until we are confronted with sacrificial love, we can not truly know.
We have a sin problem, there is no getting around that. It is this very reality where God reveals the depths of His love for us. He gave His very Son for us. Christ suffered for us. In this living truth we are free to dance in the joy of being accepted by the very One who created us.
It is an ecstatic joy when you fully see God’s radical love in Christ. He who was spat on, rejected, mocked, and made fun of even as He died for what separates us from Him, loves us inexpressibly. We can count on this, no matter how much we feel hurt by others. His loves abides with us daily, it is not fickle like that we encounter in our daily lives.
In a world of emotional games, a world of longing hopes unfulfilled, the truth of the words of Scripture below are a shining light. It is in Jesus that we are secure and loved:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life". John, 3:16.

Is Christianity a Life of Ease?

There is a certain segment today in Christianity that says that if you believe in Jesus, you will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. All your problems will be solved. You will be rolling in cash by just claiming it in Jesus name and healed of anything from a headache to catastrophic disease, just by speaking it so. Life will be a one way ticket to easy street. If you happen to be struggling with a trial, have deep inner emotional struggles, or are suffering in some way, well, you just do not have enough faith. Or, according to a TV preacher, perhaps you need to "sow a seed" of cash in his or her coffers to reap these benefits..

This is completely opposite the Scriptures. There we are promised that not only will we have trials, but sufferings of some kind or another. In fact, it is the primary way God uses to reduce our own tenacious hold on our lives to learn to trust in Him alone. God takes our defeats, our pain, and our deepest trials and makes something beautiful out of them. What He does in them and through them is far more valuable than the baubles and trinkets of life. Instead of the pipe dream of a life of ease, we find joy and the completion of the deepest yearnings of a heart that cries out for our God. It is said that happiness depends on the convenience of our circumstance, while joy is regardless of circumstance and transcends the worst of them.

God does not want us to have so much that we forget Him, or come to believe we do not need Him. How many societies have spiraled downward this way? This is not because God sentimentally wants us to feel we need Him. Rather, we are created that way. A flower can not live without the sun and water. In the same way, we need the Son and the water of true life to truly live. Abundant life is a promise even in the midst of the greatest obstacles of life.

Life is hard; it gets tough, to say the least. Yet God is mighty to save, to keep, and to care for us though it all. As we love Him who first loved us in Christ, we would have it no other way. He is the joy of our heart, what else we strive for can compare?

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18.

Confronting Stress and Anxiety With Truth

There are many trials in life, sometimes daily. Often we confront them in our own exertion alone. We may not fully realize how much extreme effort we are putting in, as anxiety, stress, and what you might call "freaking out" may actually be a kind of work in itself to us. Somehow we feel it will effect an outcome of some kind. In this, our circumstances are held closely to our chests, without considering healthier ways of dealing with them. The energy it produces, even though harmful to our emotions and even our health, in our minds is a valid way of striving and trying to cope. It becomes part of the process of handling life.

In contrast, when we come to God first in our need, when we lay our agitated hearts before Him, we confront life with truth. We cry out for the whirlwind to stop and for Him to be our peace. Peace is sorely missed today - in the world, in our hearts, our minds, and in our relationships. When we give up on the notion of self sufficiency and trust in a gracious God in Christ Jesus to be our enabling and contentment, then we become free. I use the word enable deliberately, as ever I come to see that help alone from God is not what I need. I need Him to enable me Himself entirely, with me out of the way. Grace is not a one time event only when we are saved; it is God's relationship to us daily, moment by moment.

I find that relearning and renewing all my own past unhealthy ways of dealing with life or trials is crucial as I seek total trust in a God who tenderly loves me. It is a process I receive, not one that is manufactured out of self improvement. I am filled with His freely offered grace, through the trials He allows me to be faced with. He allows them because He is a sure trust. More sure than anything we so rely on today.

Faith is only as good as the object it is placed in. In our Father, in His blessed Son our Redeemer, what a sure trust we have. We serve a beautiful God who reigns and has each breath we take in His care.

As someone who has life long suffered from anxiety attacks and social anxiety, there are days when I need to remind myself of these truths over and over. I have a choice to let the anxiety and mental duress define the truth for me, or the character and work of God, even as my emotions seek to control the moment while I seek Him. It seems a precarious balance at times, were it not for God's grace. Praise God for His tender mercy in our Lord.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Through the Trees", 16 x 20", colored pencils.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Valleys

I do not post about this part of my life often. I have struggled with anxiety issues for most of my life. Though God has healed me of so much and my life is now completely different in many ways - there are times that my anxiety kind of takes over. Not to destroy any longer, it is more like an inner storm. Anxiety attacks not only arrest ones attention and bring clouds of their own, they can leave you feeling like you are collapsing. Many who suffer from this feel like they are going to die or go crazy. Neither will happen in God’s care, I know. Yet, the turmoil is not something that easily lifts. The more progressive my life goes toward goals, the more this inner weakness is provoked.
I have chosen this self portrait as a companion to this writing as it was created during another period of turmoil in my life, some years ago. It was a time of change, confusion, the end of things and new beginnings full of vulnerability and anxiety.
God has not called me to be comfortable, so to speak. I must admit at times I might wish a period of that, yet that is not where I will grow. Such a desperate monster will not die easily in me - perhaps never fully. I am so glad I have a Savior who lived, felt, and faced the things we do. A Savior who is powerful and brings transformation, even as all seems inward defeat. It is certainly true that momentary valleys can seem like they will never go away when it is all we allow ourselves to see.
One of the biggest lies of the enemy, when we are brought low, is that our struggles are just not worthy of God’s attention. God loves real people in real life, and gave a Savior for us in our deepest needs. Life in Christ is not lived in stained glass scenes of victories that we can not relate to, but in the valleys of pain, trial, and our own personal obstacles. When we feel alone, He is there.

Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You. Psalm 38:9

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Strength Comes from the Lord.

Why have a quote focusing on strength, with an art piece that is so infused with peace and tranquility? Why not instead feature soaring mountains, a sword, or bursting rays through clouds? Though it is certainly true we can seek and experience God's enabling aid during times of high emotion, it is in the quiet moments when we come away from the world, that we find a transforming strength. As we regularly look to our Father in prayer and reading the Scriptures, we are fed with His light. In all our troubles we find rest to enjoy, not only in those moments of refreshing, but to build us up for battles ahead.

Mankind has created a great deal of stress. The world is full of it. From events around us, sin, the mad pace of today, and conflict - or from our own churning hearts full of anxieties, there is much that robs us of peace. The Author of peace, the giver of life in the midst of pain, awaits for us to lay it all at the foot of the cross and listen to His truth, above all the commotion.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful". John 14:27.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Life is Full of Trials

Life is full of trials. Some of them are very painful. They can be without, from events or circumstances around us, or within us with things we struggle with. Much of the time God may not remove these things – though there are times He may. It is what God does with them while He does not remove them that is significant. 

In each circumstance, by lifting them up to our Savior, God uses trials to draw us closer to Him. We find that God is not the God of the small, the maybe, the almost, or the nearly. He is a God of overcoming power. For the latter, we may sometimes get confused because we think this needs to conform to what we think victory, healing, or help should look like. Our views here may be skewed by many things. Yet, we know and are promised, that for His children all things work together for good. In our darkest hour we can lean on the enabling strength of a mighty, yet loving, Father.

In the end we are awed by the beauty of God and the personal grace of His love in Christ. We can have this love even when we fail, with the hope that though that may happen again and yet again, God will not leave us this way. We do not have to wait until the trial passes or until we finally climb out of the deep valley of our own weakness to rest in this love. We can do that right now. It is as near as a desperate prayer or the reading of His Word. It is as near as God’s tender grace in Christ, the defining truth of our relationship with Him.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Shadows On the Moss", 8" x 10", pastels.